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White Hats, Black Hats

September 1, 2001
by Richard L. Peck, Editor
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    It's easy to laugh at the movies for being so simplistic: The good guys are so very, very
good, and the bad guys are so irredeemably evil. In the real world we know that
people and situations tend to be more complicated than that. But, lo and behold, in our very own field, we're finding the Hollywood paradigm enacted: the good guy "white hats" and the bad guy "black hats."

One of the white hats is featured in this issue-the Glengariff Health Care Center of Glen Cove, New York, which won the 2001 OPTIMA Award. Its staff had the initiative and dedication to create, from scratch, an on-site dialysis treatment center, improving the lives of residents and families, and saving money to boot. The project narrowly beat out, incidentally, another white hat, the Long Island Care Center of Flushing, New York, which created a special unit serving the unique needs of Asian residents. Sixteen more white hats contributed OPTIMA offerings, as well; you will read about several of them in coming months.

Virtually simultaneous with the sixth annual Optima results issue going to press was the release of a congressional study on resident abuse. The report from Rep. Henry A. Waxman's (D-Calif.) House Committee on Government Reform made for disheartening-and disgusting-reading. It disclosed that about one-third of nursing homes studied had been cited for resident abuse violations. Granted, only about one-fifth of that group had allegedly subjected residents to actual harm. Most citations related to facilities' lack of appropriate systems and procedures for following up on reports of abuse. But that's bad enough. Although the American Health Care Association pointed, correctly, to the industry's staffing miseries and lack of national employee background checking as contributing factors, there is simply no excuse for slovenly management practices exposing vulnerable elderly residents to personal danger. It indicates that long-term care is still emerging from its Dark Age of ageism, resident neglect and government- program-inspired greed.

But it is emerging. The field is becoming ever more professional, as the OPTIMA Awards have shown for years. And more and more of Washington's powers that be (Rep. Waxman among them) are showing awareness these days that the industry needs support to continue on that track.

Maybe we can't redeem the black hats. But we can sure empower the white hats to take over. NH

Our thanks to this year's OPTIMA Award judges: Ian Cordes
President, CoreCare
West Palm Beach, Florida

Jenean Erickson, RN, LNHA
Survey Management Services
Prior Lake, Minnesota

Daniel W. Farley, PhD, CNHA
President/CEO
GlenWood Park Retirement Village
Princeton, West Virginia Sheldon L. Goldberg
President/CEO
The Jewish Home & Hospital
New York, New York

John R. Pratt
Director
Long-Term Care Management Institute
Standish, Maine

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